The original Kick Ass by Mark Millar was a dark look down the rabbit hole of where Superhero iconicism could take us as a society. Putting on a colourful costume, antagonising violent criminals, putting your vulnerable body at risk like it was impervious to harm; all this led to a series of shockingly blood splattered encounters that put the fragility of the human frame firmly in the foreground of a genre that would normally have us forget it. Suddenly the idea of running along the rooftops in our sisters gymnastics outfit and pouncing on muggers and rapists from three story heights not only sounded like a bad idea but made us feel like idiots for ever thinking it could have ended in anything other than broken ribs and ruptured organs.
The film took that premise and while it dropped a lot of the superhero fan boy baiting, it kept the blood that their hopes and dreams were soaked with. It was brutal, anarchic and gleefully sadistic. All of which are things that work best if you don’t see them coming and suffer most on return instalments. Can Kick Ass 2 overcome these disadvantages and become one of the sequels of the summer? Tune in next week, same Kick Ass Time same Kick Ass Channel!
Or we could just do it now? Now? Ok then. Kick Ass 2 starts up five years after the events of the first film. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) like the veterans of the Jack Ass movies, has the inexplicably regained his self-destructive itch to bleed profusely from the nose and mouth, so hits the streets to form a crime fighting team with Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). After an altercation with her step father however, she backs down to the live life of a normal girl, leaving him to join an underground “community service” group call Justice Forever. Meanwhile the former Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) decides to form his own group and become the first ever Supervillian called, sigh, The Mother Fucker. The name is especially disturbing when you see how he not only comes upon the costume for this alter ego but the money with which he pursues his dreams of megalomania.
Whilst Kick Ass is still the primary view through which the narrative is seen, this film is much more of an ensemble piece than the first one was. The three plot lines share the screen time equally and as is typical of such multi perspective films some segments work better than others. Kick Ass’s stint with the amateur band of merry men reveals some endearing characters such as the infectiously enthusiastic Dr Gravity and Night Bitch, a girl whose presence in the movie is a direct reference to how girls are increasingly embracing the misogynistic side of male comic culture and perhaps even idolising it. Jim Carry is fun as Colonel Stars & Stripes but be warned if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve probably heard every line he has.
Mother Fucker goes along parallel with this strand, doing the evil mirror routine of what “would-this-plot-be-like-if-the-bad-guys-had-the-same-idea”. The crux of this section is that whatever comes out of Fuckers mouth (you know what, in the film his real name is Chris D’Amico. Let’s just call him that) exposes just how hopelessly out of his depth he is. Inept, witless, ignorant of his own casual racism; this is a troll straight from an internet forum whose douchbaggery could not be contained in a chat room, so spilled out into real life where your bragging is instantly exposed for what it is. Bragging. At one point his character practically spells out his own limitations, “You know what? I’m rich. That’s my super power.” And that’s what he is. A soft ball player who brought his way into the big leagues. You don’t laugh with D’Amico, you laugh at him in a, “is this guy for real?” kind of way.
His entourage are less interesting and this isn’t just a problem with the presentation of the film it also brings up a problematic ideology. Two of the bad guys have no role other than being the set up for a racially insensitive joke. An African and an Asian American are introduced, they are given insulting nicknames, the racism is chastised, but ultimately the reprimand is ignored as they are referred to by those titles for the rest of the picture without anyone saying anything. Acknowledging racism doesn’t make it ok if you keep doing it.
Mother Russia gets away with it but only because her actions have at least some impact upon the plot. Her presence isn’t just some form of politically incorrect shock. Her actions are shocking in a different way. Her moments are some of the most brutal, insane and imaginative butchery I’ve seen in a summer blockbuster since Piranha 3D. Toe curling, gob smacking, horrific destruction of the human body. Even if you watch behind your fingers the images will be burned to the back of your retinas.
The film loves to celebrate its strong female characters. Unfortunately it also seeks to trivialize, demonise or punish those whose abilities do not match Kick Ass 2’s high standard for feminine excellence. In Hit-Girl’s segment any girl who dares exhibit any hint of traditional femininity, is to be harshly punished. It is portrayed as alien, malevolent, perhaps even occultist. It’s especially disturbing when its then explained away as biology, suggesting that those ominous elements are naturally part of female adolescence or that female adolescence is somehow inherently evil.
Hit-Girl herself is as fantastic here as she was in the first film although her segment is the weakest not only for the before mentioned misogyny but for the strange confused motivation that contrives her to try her luck as a regular Jane. In one scene she is declaring her devotion to her fathers vision of Hit-Girl keeping an eternal vigil over the city and in the next she caves in to her stepfathers wishes that she pack it all in. I love Hit-Girl because she doesn’t take shit, not because she bounces from the whims of one father figure to the next. Although the film does have the balance of her fight scenes down to a fine art. You always want one more just as the film is five seconds away from giving you it. The timing is almost scary.
Kick Ass 2 is an entertaining film that’s missing the edge from the previous instalment and unfortunately it makes the flaws that much more apparent. I could say that Kick Ass 2 wasn’t for everyone but it would be more honest to say that Kick Ass 2’s flaws won’t put everyone off. Funny, amusing and thoroughly diverting , it’s the end of summer and Kick Ass 2 is a perfectly breezy way to say goodbye to it.